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Wheat seed enhanced with silicon means plants are stronger and more resisilient to slugs, suggests a study. Trials by i2L show that applying the... Study suggests slug damage reduced with silicon improved wheat

Wheat seed enhanced with silicon means plants are stronger and more resisilient to slugs, suggests a study.

Trials by i2L show that applying the biostimulant Sirius boosts the natural level of silicon in wheat seed and strengthens the plant. Seedlings from this silicon-enhanced seed are stronger and more resilient to attack, it found.

Silicon is a natural element which plants actively take up to improve cell strength, cell adhesion and increase cuticle thickness – all of which improve plant health, making crops more resilient to pests such as slugs.

New benefit

Previous trials using silicon to strengthen oilseed rape showed a reduction in cabbage stem flea beetle, whilst a similar study showed aphid reduction in sugar beet when silicon levels were increased.

“Silicon improves plant resilience to environmental stress and the trial data showed that plants treated with Sirius also accumulated more silicon in seed,” says James Kennedy, managing director of manufacturers Orion FT.

“The resulting increase of silicon in the seed translates to more silicon in the crop grown from that seed,” adds Mr Kennedy. “This is a major breakthrough and will offer a new benefit for those using Sirius.”

In the trial, seedlings grown from wheat treated with Sirius that had higher levels of silicon, were compared to an untreated sample. Slug feeding reduced from 65% to 45%. The emerging crop was also sprayed with silicon to create a physical barrier.

“This reduced feeding on the untreated seed sample to 32%,” says Mr Kennedy. “But the seed taken from the previous crop with higher silicon levels reduced slug feeding to just 23%, almost a third of the damage seen in the untreated crop.”

Drilling seed from a crop treated with Sirius, and subsequently spraying it post-emergence with silicon, showed the greatest benefit to early season crop management when slugs were a threat, said Mr Kennedy.

Application rate

“We recommend applying Sirius at a rate of half a litre per hectare, at an approximate cost of £20 per application. To benefit in the early autumn, apply soon after crop emergence at growth stage 11-13, follow-up applications can be beneficial.

“Sirius does not alter the pH of a solution, so it is easy to tank mix, which eliminates the necessity for multiple spray passes.”